Wednesday, May 23, 2012


As I write this I am sitting on a moderately uncomfortable chair watching my Mom receive a blood transfusion.

She goes through this approximately once every 10 days now. It had been less frequent, but she is not well. Years ago she was diagnosed with Myelodysplasia, or a loss of ability to produce red blood cells. Coupled with persistent problems with anemia as well as the problems with short-term memory that she has, some days for her are better than others.

When she was diagnosed, it was a vague sort of thing; all we knew was that she was starting to lose the ability to make red cells. As it has gotten more profound, I have to believe that it has been partially responsible for the memory loss. As far as I know, she has not gotten a dementia diagnosis, but I wouldn't be surprised if this is present as well. That said, she has enough wherewithal to continue to live independently; she has no desire to be in any other situation. For now we just let it ride and watch to ensure she doesn't do anything to endanger herself.

For as long as I've been working as an EMS provider, I have always been fascinated with watching IV pumps. Admittedly they are machines, and boring ones at that, but it is still interesting to me to watch them function. The pump my Mom is attached to has a unit of O-positive whole blood running through normal saline. The tubing has a burette chamber in the middle; one would think it is pediatric tubing because of the burette, but it is obvious that this is not the case. To run a unit of blood in takes about 3 hours, and she is getting 2 of them today. So we will be here for a while.

The last time I brought her here was before I was injured; it was an interesting day because on the way to getting her home a truck flipped into the median strip on the highway. It tumbled end-over-end 4 times before coming to a stop on its roof. The driver was still alive; proof that seatbelts do work. He was able to move all of his extremities. The others that stopped wanted to try to get him out of the truck, but there was no way that would happen easily. When Fire and Rescue arrived they had to cut him out of the truck, but with tools they were able to get him out relatively quickly. The State Police closed the highway to land a helicopter, and the driver was taken to one of the trauma centers in Boston, but I don't know which one. Doesn't matter, though; to my knowledge he recovered from his injuries.

Considering how disease processes like this one work, it is a minor miracle that she has survived this long. The memory loss is rough, though; just now she asked me the name of her primary care doctor, one she has been a patient of for close to 4 years. She remembers other things, but they say that the most recent events, people, etc., are the first to be forgotten. And that is the hardest thing to witness.

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